Hip hop has Russell Simmons and his Def Jam Records legacy. When it comes to rhythm and blues, Ahmet Ertegun and his work at Atlantic Records helped bring artists like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to the mainstream in the '50s and '60s. But when it comes to heavy metal, few have done more for the genre than Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel.
"When it comes down to it, we're just huge fans of heavy metal and everything we've done in the past 30 years has been out of a love for the music," Slagel tells Noisecreep.
The 51-year-old is on the line with us discussing Metal Blade's 30th anniversary. It's hard to believe, but the Southern California-based label's first release – a 1982 compilation called Metal Massacre – featured a then unknown local act called Metallica. Although the landmark album also included a track from Sunset Strip heroes Ratt, Slagel has largely steered clear of the more overtly commercial bands of the past few decades.
"The glam metal scene got really huge in the '80s, but I didn't want to sign those kinds of artists because it's not the kind of stuff I listen to. It wouldn't have been true to what I love. Back in the '80s, the music I listened to was the opposite of that hair metal stuff – sound wise and image wise – and there was never a moment where I felt like I had to sign those kinds of groups because they were selling well. I just didn't care," says Slagel.
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Throughout its rich history, Metal Blade has issued groundbreaking albums from the likes of Slayer, Fates Warning, Between the Buried and Me